Serum metabolites suggestive of healthy diets correlate with higher global cognitive functioning, while serum metabolites indicating higher sugar intake correspond to lower global cognitive functioning scores in older adults. These are the findings of a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
Researchers conducted a cross-sectional observational study based on data obtained from population-based, longitudinal, multisite cohorts of varying racial/ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic/Latinx (n=2222) from the Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) and those of African (n=478) or European (n=1365) descent in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study.
In the HCHS/SOL cohort, researchers assessed cognitive function in individuals aged 45 years or older, using 4 tests: the 6-item screener (SIS) for mental status, word fluency for verbal functioning, Brief-Spanish English Verbal Learning Test (B-SVELT) for learning and memory, and digit symbol substitution test for processing speed and executive function. Additional assessments included serum metabolites after fasting and APOE genotyping using whole genome sequencing.
The researchers identified 6 metabolites (5′-Methylthioadenosine, glucose, mannose, ribitol, gamma-CEHC glucuronide, mannitol/sorbitol) that correlated with lower global cognitive functioning across all races and ethnicities, 4 of which related to sugar intake.
They analyzed the effect of diet on cognitive function, particularly the Mediterranean diet. They found weak evidence of the causal effects of ribitol (sugar intake) on cognitive function, whereas metabolites, such as beta-cryptoxanthin, reflected a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which correlated with higher cognitive functioning scores.
Based on their analysis, the researchers acknowledge that the casual association between specific metabolites and cognitive function is weak.
“Overall, we demonstrated high validity and generalizability of several metabolite associations with global cognitive function across diverse race/ethnicities, specifically metabolites related to sugars,” the researchers stated. “The associated metabolites also highlight the importance of a healthy diet, specifically fruit and vegetable consumption, in the association with global cognitive function in adults,” they concluded.
Study limitations included the calculation of the global cognitive function score using different sets of cognitive tests in each dataset (BPRHS, SOL, and ARIC).
Disclosures: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.
Granot-Hershkovitz E, He S, Bressler J, et al. Plasma metabolites associated with cognitive function across race/ethnicities affirming the importance of healthy nutrition. Alzheimers Dement. Published online September 16, 2022. doi:10.1002/alz.12786